Fifty was the magic number. I told myself I was going to query 50 agents and if I didn’t find an agent or a publisher at the end of that time then it was time to move on.
My reasoning was this. I had done a lot of research and had read in a couple of places, either on Kristen Nelson’s blog or Miss Snark, or various other industry blogs, that it looked bad if a writer had only one book. If an agent or editor asked, “What else do you have?” did I really want to say, “uh, just the one book?” I didn’t want to keep pounding away at the agent search for the one book — I wanted to be able to say, “okay, enough. This one isn’t going to sell — time to move on.”
So I searched on agentquery.com, I looked at the acknowledgement pages of the books by authors I liked, and I asked people I knew who had agents who their agents were.
And a funny thing happened. I started racking up the rejections.
Hmmm. I was going to be free to write that second book a bit faster than I maybe had thought.
Agent rejections are interesting. Most of them are form — understandable, as agents probably get thousands of queries a month. But now and again I’d get a personalized rejection that made my day. Uh, note to anyone just starting out in the publication quest — when you get a personalized rejection from an agent, that is a treasure. It is a Good Thing.
Then the personalized rejections started to say the same thing. “You write well, but…” “This is well written, but…”
I started to really hate the word but. I kept hearing the same things too. Not commercial enough. More romance than fantasy. No, it was more fantasy than romance. It was a portal story. Etc. Etc.
Twenty agents. Thirty agents. I started to think that hey, I am doing okay selling short stories. There are other novels I want to write. Forty agents. I began a new novel. Forty five agents. I started to feel — well, a little relieved. I gave it my best shot and it was time to move on. I guess I was eager to cross the finish line, because I looked over my spreadsheet of agents and came across a few that had not yet responded. So I re-queried, just to make sure I hadn’t missed a rejection or anything. I am nothing if not thorough.
Next time: The agent writes back.